Monday, June 20, 2011

Autodesk Mudbox - where CAD is not enough

One of the less known components of the new Autodesk Design Suites is the modeling application Autodesk Mudbox.

Despite its "dirty" name it is a useful tool - it can help to model 3D shapes that would be impossible or very difficult to model in standard CAD applications.

Autodesk Mudbox is a kind of "digital clay". Its tool set contains functions for sculpting, "kneading" and interactive shaping, smooth adding and removing "clay" (3D mass), applying 3D textures and 3D painting. These sculptor operations can be performed with mouse or from a pressure-sensitive digitizer tablet.

A practical example of CAD functions in Mudbox is modeling from textures (2D images) - typically for engraving. The shade of each pixel defines the offset (height/depth) of the respective point on a 3D model.

First you have to create an adequate fine initial model (e.g. a flat surface). Then you can use the function Maps > Sculpt using Map to apply a texture with a proper offset Multiplier factor (a negative multiplier toggles the extrusion direction). The resulting model can be then transferred using the FBX format as a 3D object e.g. to AutoCAD, 3ds Max or Maya.

The process is illustrated in the video on CAD Studio's YouTube channel:

Autodesk Neon renders your Revit projects

The web-cloud rendering service Autodesk Project Neon now supports not only DWG scenes from AutoCAD but also Revit projects.

Project Neon comes from Autodesk Labs and it was launched about 1 year ago.

Revit projects cannot be uploaded directly as RVT files but you need to install a Revit 2012 plugin which converts your scenes to an intermediate format SPD. The rendering process is then similar to that of DWG. After you login to you can choose the scene, camera, the requested resolution (up to 2000px), the rendering quality and the output format of the resulting picture. You can wait for the rendering "online", or you can set Neon to send you a notification e-mail with a link to pick up your picture (JPG, PNG or TIFF).

Neon rendering is about 160x faster than on a standard workstation. We have performed some tests comparing the quality and performance of the standard (local) rendering and Neon cloud-rendering:

The performance gains are most obvious in the best rendering quality. Local rendering was performed on a computer with Intel Core i7 2.8 GHz, 64-bit OS.

Option Draft, resolution 1000px
Neon: 24 sec
Revit: 37 sec

Option High, resolution 1000px
Neon: 5:42 min
Revit: 12:46 min

Option Best, resolution 2000px
Neon: 32 min
Revit: 3 hrs 40 min

Monday, June 13, 2011

Get your AutoCAD add-on through Autodesk Apps

Autodesk has just launched a new online tool providing access to many add-on applications directly from AutoCAD 2012 - Autodesk Apps - an Autodesk Exchange store (a kind of "Autodesk Market" similar to Android Market or Apple iTunes).

CAD Studio was one of several companies - developers from around the world who have participated on testing of this new "Marketplace" for AutoCAD users. So today you can find also several popular CAD Studio's freeware and shareware applications on the Apps store. The Apps tab is available in the English language interface of the Exchange window - see the AutoCAD command EXCHANGE (in any language version of AutoCAD 2012).

Through the new tab "Apps" in the standard "Autodesk Exchange" window in AutoCAD 2012, users can download (or buy) and automatically install more than 100 add-on applications and block libraries. All the Apps tools were pre-tested by Autodesk and confirmed as safe to use. Another advantage is that you do not have to worry about installing and launching the individual tools - the applications from the Apps store are installed automatically and they integrate themselves into the AutoCAD menu structure (CUI ribbon). Most applications were developed by members of the Autodesk Developer Network (ADN).

Add-on applications available on the Apps tab in Autodesk Exchange can be either freeware, or trial software, or may be commercial applications that can be purchased directly through PayPal.

“We use GeoRefImg and other plug-in modules by CAD Studio every day. These small add-ons save time when completing projects in AutoCAD Architecture and, above all; we value the ability of CAD Studio to tailor these add-ons to continuously suit our needs.”
Rostislav Říha, CEO
Czech Republic
All the CAD Studio's software available online on the Autodesk Apps tab can be also downloaded separately (even for older versions of AutoCAD) from the CAD Studio Download page.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Can your AutoCAD talk?

Yes it can. Any Windows version of AutoCAD can access the system "voice" API and send output through this "speech" interface. With surprisingly little programming (in VisualLISP, VBA, or .NET) you can "tell" various important messages to your AutoCAD operators.

This can be used not only for obvious office pranks but also for much more serious applications and productivity add-ons. You just get another communication channel to the user. So you can give him/her important system notifications, advices and warnings.

Our SPEAK Lisp utility contains some examples of the speech output functions and voice-reactors. E.g. warning on an attempt to draw on a locked layer, "narrated" layer list, etc. The Speak.vlx add-on utility can be downloaded for free from and its source code is available upon request. You can extend it to fit your needs. Here are the examples on video:

Monday, June 6, 2011

Online service for converting STL files to AutoCAD and Inventor

In October 2010, we have started a free online service - STL2DWG - for web-based conversion of 3D stereolithography files (.STL) back into CAD applications. It would be sexy to call this a "web-cloud service" but it currently runs on our own physical CAD Forum internet server, so there are really no scaleability, elasticity or other cloud-related attributes involved. Despite this boring "no-cloud" nature, this online tool got rather popular among CAD users and has successfully converted already more than 3.000 STL models uploaded by CAD Forum users.

Neither AutoCAD, nor Inventor and Revit can import STL files natively. These CAD applications can only export STL files as a part of their "3D printing" functionality. So when you need to use (re-import, re-engineer) an existing .STL file for viewing, measuring or reconstructing of 3D geometry, you can use this online service available on the portal.

How does it work? Just upload your textual or binary STL file from any source and this web tool generates and returns a SCR (script) file for AutoCAD (to save it to DWG), or a DXF file compatible with virtually any 3D CAD application.

To load the resulting DXF file into AutoCAD, you can just use Open after you click on the result of the online conversion. To load the 3D DXF file into Inventor, download the file and use the Inventor import wizard (Open) and check its options "3D solids", "Use default file names" and "New part, Wires to 3D sketch". In Revit, you can load the DXF file with the ribbon function Insert > Import > Import CAD.

You can try this online tool at STL2DWG

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Autodesk mobile GIS on Apple iPad

Autodesk Infrastructure Map Server (the software formerly known as Topobase web) is not limited to access only from "thick" clients (AutoCAD Map Enterprise) and web browsers on desktop computers. Most of its key GIS functions can be provided also online, for terrain workers, through the mobile GIS client. This lightweight client is currently optimized mainly for Apple iPads.

The usage of this interesting mobile GIS technology is illustrated on our YouTube channel - first with the Autodesk sample data:

and then the real-world data from our existing water and wastewater GIS application in Aquaserve - here is also used the geolocation functionality in the mobile client, detecting the current location of the device/user: